Sony’s Venom movie has added Black Panther actress Sope Aluko to the cast in a mystery role. Aluko played the character credited only as “Shaman” in the Ryan Coogler-directed blockbuster, portraying a Wakandan spiritual leader who learns under the older, wiser Zuri (Forest Whitaker). Her role in Venom, however, is a mystery to this point. And it remains unclear whether it relates at all to Black Panther or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Venom, which stars Tom Hardy as the title character and is directed by Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer, is being billed as a standalone film that is not connected to the universe seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Speculation has continued despite this, thanks to Sony and Marvel Studios partnering up to bring Spider-Man to the MCU in the first place. But statements from the top of Marvel have mostly described Venom as strictly a Sony production. Still, that doesn’t make the casting of Aluko any less intriguing.
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Deadline first reported Aluko’s addition to Venom on Wednesday. She joins Hardy, along with co-stars Michelle Williams (All The Money In The World) and Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sony continues to fill out the cast. No further details about the movie itself or Aluko’s character were reported, other than the fact that Venom will be “Spider-Man-centric” while being unrelated to the MCU’s version of Spider-Man. Aluko’s presence in the cast, in a mystery role no less, will do nothing to quell suspicions that Venom does connect to the MCU.
Comments from Amy Pascal about both Venom and the upcoming Black Cat/Silver Sable spinoff Silver & Black complicated matters when she described the movies as “adjuncts” to the Disney/Marvel mega-franchise. She implied that connections could exist to the MCU without the movies being an official part of the narrative. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige quickly walked that back when he insisted it’s “just Spidey” in the MCU right now – but Pascal also couldn’t resist hinting at a Spider-Man/Venom crossover at some point.
Until Aluko’s exact role in Venom is known, you can point to her name and find a simple connect-the-dots scenario with Black Panther and the MCU. While she’s likely not going to reprise her role as Shaman in the Venom standalone, that still wouldn’t necessarily rule out the movie having some MCU ties. Other actors have played multiple characters within the MCU before. Alfre Woodard played both Miriam in Captain America: Civil War and Mariah Dillard in Luke Cage. Enver Gjokaj is best known as Daniel Sousa in ABC’s Agent Carter, but he also played a young cop in The Avengers. And Peter Mensah, who portrayed General Joe Greller in The Incredible Hulk, will portray “Qovas” in two upcoming episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Though it’s clear that the speculation will never completely go away, Feige’s statements on Venom have consistently been definitive. Venom could still connect to the MCU in subtle, harmless ways, and Aluko’s character could be one of them. But based on everything Feige has said, the belief is that Venom’s first actual appearance in the MCU is a long way away. And there’s still no clear path for the much-anticipated “crossover” to take place.
Next: Everything We Learned From Venom’s First Trailer